Posts filed under The Obstructions of Vision

The Expansion of Vision

Visionmakers are committed to the expansion of their own vision.  As a result of this commitment, they remain vigilant to three other conditions that threaten 20:20 sight: skilled unawareness, fixed perspectives, and denial. (Please refer to The Obstructions of Vision category to see past entries on this topic.)  

Skilled unawareness is a term coined by Chris Argyris, a pioneer of organizational learning. Argyris argues that blind spots, gaps and inconsistencies are designed behaviors. He suggests that "human beings have designs that keep them unaware of their errors and they are unaware of these designs." One such design is the ability to replicate these behaviors expertly, and without consciously having to think about them. Defensiveness keeps these designs hidden and operational. 


Brilliant insight.


Visionmakers seek to interrupt skilled unawareness by being open to coaching. Working with someone who can assist in making the invisible visible is one means of dismantling such an insidious pattern.


Fixed perspectives also limit vision because the will becomes engaged behind a singular viewpoint, blinding us to anything other than what we wish to see. Fixed perspectives are held in place by the need to be right and to win. Thus, we have given up a commitment to see in order to dominate others, hardly the commitment of a Visionmaker.


Often, we only become aware of fixed perspectives when we are in conflict with the point of view of others or when we are trying to control situations and people's thoughts, behavior, actions and reactions. Of course, we all suffer from the tyranny of our own certainties, so everyone has work to do on this obstruction to avoid becoming self-righteous control freaks. 


Visionmakers attempt to mature vision by broadening their perspectives. One practice in support of this is hosting different points of view. This is a commitment to curiosity rather protecting a position. Curiosity is the vehicle by which we enter someone's world to explore the unfamiliar and understand how they construct their point of view.  We rarely see this practiced in today's world, where it has become a blood sport to deconstruct the views of others. This deconstruction usually comes with some form of ridicule, sarcasm and derision. Any political panel discussion on television is sufficient example of the practice.


We don't necessarily have to relinquish our own perspectives as we seek to broaden vision, but quite often, seeking more information and understanding about how others view the world softens our righteousness and expands what we are able to see and learn.


Denial is a third obstruction to seeing. It is a sophisticated psychological defense mechanism that kicks in when the facts become so uncomfortable that they cannot be accepted and are rejected rather than examined.


Most often this rejection comes in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Denial may be total, partial as a way to minimize the evidence, or the person involved may claim no responsibility in the matter at hand as a means of dismissing it. In this pattern, we often deny facts, responsibility, the impact of our words and actions, and when pushed against the wall, deny that we are in denial.


Denial is a form of self-deception. It can be produced by stress, conflict, painful thoughts, and threatening situations. 


This pattern behavior signals to Visionmakers that there is work to do. Strengthening can be accomplished through the recovery of the strong heart, where courage resides. Unresolved issues based in the past must be brought to closure and fears must be faced in order to interrupt denial. These all cause denial.


Tough work to break the obstructions to vision, but necessary if we are to expand our vision beyond fear.

©Patrick O'Neill 2009. All rights reserved.


© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved.

Posted on June 8, 2009 and filed under The Obstructions of Vision.


"What I have learned bears no other fruit than to make me realize how much I still have to learn." –Montaigne


The seventh obstruction of foresight is self-importance. 


A Visionmaker checks the ego at the door when he or she goes out to meet the unknown. Self-absorption and narcissism are useless in the inevitable encounter with the primordial forces of Death and Destiny. 


Not only are they useless, they are dangerous. When we are so wrapped up in looking good and being admired, we are preoccupied and fail to notice what is emerging around us. Pride goeth before a fall, goes the old proverb.


Besides, what else can you see when you are so busy looking at yourself?


When the will is engaged in pride and inflation, it draws to us only those possibilities that can be used to feed the pattern.  Everything else remains hidden or ignored. Self-importance traps us in a narcissistic hall of mirrors where every choice feeds the illusion, and every choice results in greater disorientation.


Fattened on a steady diet of delusion of our own grandeur, we become weak, susceptible and addicted to feeding the voracious appetite of the ego. This severs any connection to the Four-Chambered Heart, which is every Visionmaker's compass in pursuing Destiny.


Visionmakers prefer to remain humble.  They recognize that even the most successful person is insignificant in the relation to the mysterious and uncontrollable forces of Death and Destiny.


Visionmakers are also acutely aware that there is always more to see and learn.  They recognize that transformation is only possible when one adopts this attitude.  Pride closes the mind and heart to growth and change. It is a dangerous affectation.


Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, directs our vision to more fruitful territory:


Don't trace out your profile–

forget your side view-

all that is outer stuff.


Look for your other half

who walks always next to you

and tends to be who you aren't.



is an ugly fault,

and now it's a boring fault too.


But look in your mirror for the other one,

the other one who walks by your side.


© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved.




Posted on April 1, 2009 and filed under The Obstructions of Vision.


"We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same." -Carlos Castaneda.


The sixth obstruction of foresight is pessimism.


Pessimism is the tendency to see, anticipate, or emphasize only bad or undesirable outcomes or results. This means that vision has been captured by disappointment.


It is an easy trap to fall into, because the status quo is working so hard to convince us that positive change is impossible and decline inevitable. 


Pessimism always requires a self-fulfilling prophet. Being right about what's wrong feeds self-pity and keeps vision focused on the sorry state of the self rather than on possibility and meaning.


Of course, this is just another tawdry magic trick of the status quo. It counts on our gullibility and complacency to remain dominant and in control. Every conversion to the philosophy of pessimism keeps the side-show going.


The subscription to pessimism is a commitment that must be constantly upheld and renewed. To do this requires a heavy investment in self-pity.


Self-pity is a state of self-absorbed unhappiness over one's own troubles and difficulties. This is a very popular way to pass the time and there are many enthusiasts. It is the mood necessary to maintain the pessimistic outlook that clouds foresight and turns vision gloomy.


In Visionmaking, self-pity is seen as an indulgence and an embarrassing declaration that a Visionmaker is less than the sum of his or her circumstances. This is saying out loud that our actions don't have power, that our choices don't count. Nonsense.


Even in the darkest circumstances, a Visionmaker knows that his or her knowledge, aptitudes, gifts, talents, character qualities, experience, resourcefulness and creativity far outmatch the circumstances and the status quo.


Refusing to take responsibility for our own pattern of choices holds self-pity in place. Visionmakers reject such irresponsibility. They recognize the power for change that every human being holds in their hands. 


It is not the future that one should fear. It is our own failure to see the future as our friend; that, and the passive willingness to succumb to the numbing paralysis of our fears.


© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved.

Posted on March 30, 2009 and filed under The Obstructions of Vision.


"No great discovery was ever made...except by one who lifted his nose above the grindstone of details and ventured on a more comprehensive vision. -Albert Einstein


Foresight is a struggle for those afflicted by the tyranny of the intellect.


For such people, the world is cut and dried, logical and orderly, fact-based and data-controlled. They cannot tolerate a world that is mysterious, abstract and unknown. As a result, they dismiss all that is outside the tiny domain of what can be seen intellectually.


The overly-reasonable limit possibility thinking to those items that can be verified only through the scientific method and they tend to restrict foresight to the familiar ground that is tried and true. Yet, so much of life exists out beyond the borderline of the intellect! Blaise Pascal knows this territory:


The last proceeding of reason is to recognize that there is an infinity of things which are beyond it."


Possibility, which emerges from meaning, is always calling us to the new frontier of experience.  That frontier is the ground that must be traversed to move beyond our concepts about life into direct experience. Direct experience is the domain where the present and the future intermingle.


We cannot hope to encounter the future while hiding behind concepts, theories, rationales or cleverness. These are the artifacts of the past.


Foresight requires a Visionmaker to make the daily expedition into direct experience. It is here, and only here, that the future resides, shimmering at the border of the present, awaiting our arrival.


We fail to make this important meeting, or arrive too late, when we are caught up in the inventory of reason. We must balance reason and imagination to catch a glimpse of the emerging future. The mind must be free to consider what lies at the edge of what we know-and most of that stuff defies logic, analysis, measurement and classification.


What is required here is unreasonableness. The unreasonable do not allow the status quo to dissuade them from exploring the unknown. 


Unreasonableness allows us to catch a glimpse of the path were were born to follow. This is a path that leaves the conventions of the status quo in the past where it belongs and beckons us onward into a mystery.


Being unreasonable in our commitment to see the emerging future requires that we follow our curiosity into the deep waters of the unknown- fragments, secrets, dreams, images, and intuition are the the clues that we follow.


Of course we bring rational thought along on the expedition, but it is a navigational tool and not the master of the journey. We push onward, eyes on the horizon, confident that we will see the far shore.

© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved.

Posted on March 26, 2009 and filed under The Obstructions of Vision.

Risk Avoidance

"If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever." –St. Thomas Aquinas


Foresight is difficult to access if we are risk adverse.


The desire to remain safe and in control reduces our tolerance for new possibilities and has us avoid looking at things that are beyond our comfort zone.


Fear is the battleground of the fourth obstruction to foresight. Fear hijacks vision and turns it against itself-our gift becomes our torment.


Rather than facing the unknown with excitement and anticipation, we see the unfamiliar as a threat and an impending catastrophe.


Fear convinces us that our comfort, safety, relationships, livelihood, possessions, even how we see the world, are somehow at risk. We turn timid rather than meet the unexpected with the confidence that we are well matched for the encounter.


As Helen Keller points out, we are mildly delusional if we think that we can control life and remove risk from our experience:


"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."


The Visionmaker calls on the unique personal resources that he or she has been given to undertake the journey of meaning. 


Supported by aptitudes, gifts, talents, character qualities, knowledge and experience, a Visionmaker trusts that the journey of meaning has prepared the way and funded the personal power necessary to meet the unknown from a place of quiet confidence.


He or she recognizes that prudent risk taking is not recklessness.  


Recklessness is the blatant disregard for the consequences of action. Prudent risk taking is the careful consideration and mitigation of the consequences of choices made and not made.  


Once such calculations have been made and precautions taken where possible, a Visionmaker always chooses direct experience over comfort, involvement over passivity and creative tension over stasis. In this way, he or she ensures that vision is growing not diminishing.  


Life is an experiential expedition. For all we know, we have but one opportunity to make this original voyage into a mystery. We can either live it fully...or remain on the shoreline, fretting about the future, waiting for the assurance that all will end well.


No one can give us that guarantee. Visionmakers agree with Mark Twain's assessment of the matter:


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."


There's a mantra worth repeating: Explore. Dream. Discover!


Thank you for visiting Visions.  As always, I welcome your insights and comments.


© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved.



Posted on March 23, 2009 and filed under The Obstructions of Vision.


The Open Heart is the home of possibility. Visionmakers believe that openness is one of the conditions that best supports foresight. As a result, a Visionmaker guards against closed-heartedness as an obstruction to seeing.  

In a state of closed-heartedness, we resist new possibilities, and fail to consider them from a place of curiosity and optimism. They are often greeted with suspicion, as unwelcome guests who seek refuge in precisely the wrong way, and at precisely the wrong time. They are usually turned away at the border of our consciousness with a declaration: Dangerous Material!


Foresight is only available to those who can hold the creative tension that comes when a new possibility challenges the status quo. As you may recall from previous posts, creative tension is the perceptual stretching that is required to open to a new possibility.


Creative tension is the atmosphere that arrives with paradox, dilemma, unfamiliar people or circumstances, creative opportunities, and conflict.  It is the field of the emerging future.


Closed-heartedness provides no entry point for creative tension or disperses it before it has time to provide the stimulation required for us to see something new and be changed by what we see. Our own transformation is blocked as a result.


For most people, creative tension is like being tortured on the rack. To a Visionmaker, creative tension is the medium for growth and change.


Between a possibility and the status quo is the aperture for the emergence of a breakthrough. Our challenge is to stay open-hearted and resilient in these conditions, rather than shut down, which collapses the aperture.


We are currently experiencing conditions that test our ability to stay open in the face of uncertainty and volatility. Most of us hate it.  


A Visionmaker sees it as a thrilling adventure into "what's next."


Foresight requires the strength of character, resiliency and tenacity to accept life's experience-the good, bad and the ugly–without closing down and hardening the heart.


To do this, we must face our fears, disappointments and perceived losses and stay matter what.


© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved.

Posted on March 21, 2009 and filed under The Obstructions of Vision.


Cynic, n: a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. -Ambrose Bierce


The second obstruction of foresight is cynicism.  


Cynicism is the result of bitterness that arises from a disappointment or injury that sours the spirit.  Sitting in the bleachers of life, sneering at possibility and convinced that the game is rigged, the cynic has allowed that which he or she despises–the status quo–to claim them.


The status quo is a state of stasis where there is neither motion nor development and where there is no hope of change.  The cynic's world view takes this distinction one step further. He or she is convinced that the self-interest of others is the driving force of society...and that it is a permanent condition.


When the spirit has been immersed in a sewer of disappointment and misanthropy, the possibility for positive change is drowned like an unwanted child. Blinded by anger and resentment, the cynic takes refuge in sarcasm, the comedy of the defeated spirit. 


There is a secret that Visionmakers know about those who have turned their eyes to cynicism.  Behind the mask of the cynic is an idealist who has been hurt, still cares deeply, but has lost faith. 


The antidote to cynicism is love. This is the transformation point for every cynic-to return to life's embrace through the arms of love.  


With our eyes turned to all that we love–people, places, activities and things–we begin to throw off the poisons that have sickened our spirit. Ralph Waldo Emerson offers a deep insight into the restorative power of love, a power that heals vision:


"Love would put a new face on this weary old world in which we dwell as pagans and enemies too long."



Love renews our vision and belief that the world is a mysterious place of adventure and opportunity, that other people are intrinsically good, and that there is much to be joyous and hopeful about.


Yes, there are problems and challenges.  


Yes, there are some people that have lost their way and prey on others.


Suffering is a condition that continues as our companion.


Love recognizes all of that yet retains the power to renew our belief that possibilities for change are not only available but also doable. 


A Visionmaker is in love with life, on fire with meaning, and committed to manifesting the vision of the heart in the world. Despite disappointment and difficulty, the path of the heart is far more important than the bumps and bruises that occur on the journey.


Rumi, the Sufi Master, says it best:


"Oh break my heart,

Oh break it again,

So that I can learn to love

Even more!"


© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved.

Posted on March 18, 2009 and filed under The Obstructions of Vision.

Unfinished Business

Be not the slave of your own past. –Ralph Waldo Emerson


Foresight is the ability to envision the inner journey from possibility to positive outcome. It is through this process of reflection that Visionmakers are able to see long-term possibilities, opportunities and consequences of action taken and not taken.


As mentioned in my previous post, in dark times such as these, vision is at a premium. Those that can discern a path forward despite difficult and volatile circumstances make the future that they want rather than the one they are dealt by Chance.


It is incumbent on Visionmakers to maintain the efficacy of vision. They guard against anything that restricts or restrains the power to see the future. The power to see the future is available to everyone and anyone. But it takes hard work and training to pierce the veil of the status quo and view the multiple worlds of possibility that exist beyond conventional viewpoints.


The first obstruction of foresight is unfinished business. Unfinished business is anything that has happened to us that we cannot reconcile or get over. This includes unhappy relationships, personal failures, loss that we cannot accept, and other experiences that have inflicted pain and produced despondency.


Of course, it is normal to grieve when such events visit us. But even grieving must come to an end. After a period of time, we must return to life and leave these brushes with Death behind us– more discerning, experienced, and mature as a result of our experience.


Unfinished business also includes the places where we did not have the courage to face experience. At the time, we were unwilling or unable to meet these events. Instead, we avoided the situation, the experience, or the people that frightened or challenged us, rather than meet them with the strong-heartedness and self-assurance that we could hold our own and resolve whatever problems may have been present. 


This avoidance pattern always carries a gravity field. Vision becomes arrested by the past, which dramatically reduces our ability to see beyond our victimization. We cannot see our future through anything but the filter of our past mistakes. 


Visionmakers see the past as a road of initiation rather than a road of victimization. With this perspective, the past is viewed as the perfect preparation for things yet to come. Despite failures, a Visionmaker forgives mistakes, missed opportunities, and failures. He or she recognizes that this is how learning happens. The past must be reviewed from a place of compassion and responsibility.


Compassion recognizes that even though we missed the mark, the journey is judged by its totality, not its episodes. Therefore, we take a long view of our progress, embrace our imperfections, learn from what happened, and seek to do it differently going forward.


Responsibility reminds us to clean up our mess, even if it occurred many years ago. It is always possible to repair or rectify the injuries that we may have committed or address the injuries done to us with the spirit of reconciliation. Those things that we cannot forgive, we continue to learn from but do not allow them to dictate our choices.


Unfinished business – the baggage of the past – is best left at the side of the path of meaning. It weighs too much, and requires too much attention and energy to drag forward.  


Best to keep our eyes on the horizon rather than the rear-view mirror.


© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved.

Posted on March 16, 2009 and filed under The Obstructions of Vision, Uncategorized.

The Obstructions of Vision

In times of great darkness, vision is at a premium.  

That is why Visionmakers everywhere protect their ability to see by guarding against the obstructions of vision. "As a man is," wrote William Blake "so he sees."


Visionmakers take Blake's observation literally to heart.  It is from the heart that vision springs and therefore, we turn to the heart to renew our ability to see clearly, even through dark times such as those we currently encounter.


The great Persian poet, Hafiz suggests that there can be no vision without self-mastery:


The warriors tame

The beasts in their past

So that the night's hoofs

Can no longer break the jeweled vision

In the heart.


Committed to taming the past, Visionmakers remain vigilant to any obstruction of vision that can infect the heart and harm the eye. There are seven major obstructions that prevent vision from forming. These include:


  • Unfinished business
  • Cynicism
  • Closed-heartedness
  • Risk avoidance
  • Reasonableness
  • Pessimism
  • Self-importance



Over the coming days, I will cover each of these impediments and explore how they restrain and restrict our field of vision. Visionmakers must be free to cast their vision forward, as though it was being carried across the landscape of possibility on the wings of a large, dark bird.


This is impossible if the heart is obstructed by the forces of the status quo, forces invested in maintaining a state of stasis where there is neither forward movement or progress.


Those that have been arrested by these agents, are unable to recognize the emergence of new possibilities.


Or, if they are capable of such perception, they no longer have the energy or agility to meet this emerging future. The amber of the status quo freezes the sensibilities and negates action. 


A Visionmaker must be available to act without restraint or reserve.  This is the way the future is plucked from the fingers of Chance.


© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved.


Posted on March 10, 2009 and filed under The Obstructions of Vision.